To recap, the university's and the Louisiana Division of Administration's excuse for not releasing the new appraisal was that it was conducted "in anticipation of litigation." Then the university also said it wasn't expecting to be sued over the botched land swap deal, the one where 36 acres of UL's Johnston Street horse farm would be exchanged for Davidson's 4 residential acres on Girard Park Drive to expand UL's campus.
In the latest head-scratching development in the land swap debacle, last week Authement's attorney, Steve Oats, told The Independent Weekly's legal counsel, Gary McGoffin, that the state may expropriate the Davidson property, a legal process also commonly referred to as eminent domain. The state claims if it can't negotiate a deal to buy Davidson's property, it may take the old homes and acreage ' private property that isn't even connected with the university campus. The courts would decide whether the state has a right to take the site, and Davidson (a past president and current member of the UL Board of Trustees) would have a right to a trial by jury to determine his compensation. That's the litigation they're anticipating.
This justification for keeping the record from the public appears to be a desperate measure in Authement's longstanding mission to acquire Davidson's property. In late 2003, Davidson's good friend, appraiser George Parker, was hired by Authement to value the land and homes, and Parker came up with a $3.25 million price tag.
That's what Davidson thought he'd get in the land swap, especially after the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved the deal in mid-2005. Under intense criticism over the dubious $3.25 million valuations of both the horse farm and Davidson properties and numerous questions about the cozy group of principals involved, in December the board asked the state DOA to recommend a new, "independent" appraiser. In all likelihood Davidson's came back a couple of months ago from independent appraiser Lane Godshall at about half of Parker's appraisal (the horse farm has not yet been reappraised), but concerned residents won't know for sure until they get to see the document.
Presumably, neither Authement nor Davidson liked the outcome of the new valuation, leading to the decision to keep the record from the public. Authement announced in mid-July that the land swap deal was off ' but that he's still seeking money from the state's cash-strapped higher education board to buy the Davidson land outright.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the saga's expropriation chapter is Davidson's experience with this kind of legal work. For years, he handled expropriation matters for local government, with George Parker (who is now retired) conducting the appraisals.
The new appraisal is unquestionably a public document, says Josh Zelden, an attorney for the Louisiana Press Association. The "anticipation of litigation" exemption applies to executive sessions held as part of public meetings ' not to this type of public record. And in cases where closed-door executive session meetings are called to discuss pending litigation, an attorney general's opinion holds that there must be a written demand and the parties disclosed. So for the state to even attempt to piggy-back on this exemption it must produce a written demand from its would-be opponent, Davidson (a demand it has not disclosed because it likely does not exist) and show that public discussion of the case would be detrimental to the state's position or strategy. Only then could the documents related to this exemption be legally kept from the public. "It is irrational and self-contradictory to suggest that disclosure of an appraisal showing a lower value for the property in question could hurt the public body attempting to acquire the property," says Zelden. "It can only help."
It's unclear what kind of argument the state will make to support expropriation of the property. To successfully take private property, government must prove there is a public or "necessary" purpose, like construction of an interstate. But some state and local governments have been trying to take private property for economic development purposes; the issue has become a political hot potato in post-Katrina Louisiana, and this fall voters will decide on a far-reaching constitutional amendment to restrict expropriation for economic development purposes.
Why the state would consider creating a legal mess over this already controversial piece of property is anyone's guess. And if its latest excuse has any legitimacy, although it still falls short of proving the appraisal should not be released to the public, is any private property on Girard Park Drive ' or anywhere in Lafayette, for that matter ' safe from the university's grasp?
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Women sue over sperm mix-up; Romney on campaign trail; Ebola patient was released from hospital and more national and international news for Thursday, October 02, 2014.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.